The Idea of the Organic in Scripture (9)
The same truth of John 15:1-8, that God works with an organism, is taught in Psalm 80, where the entire nation of Israel is compared to a vine. This vine was brought out of Egypt and planted in Canaan where it grew and flourished (8-11). But the Psalmist asks plaintively why God had neglected and cut down His vine (12-13).
In the days when it prospered, Israel contained elect and reprobate, but the elect were dominant in the land and kept the laws of God. When the vine was cut down, the reason is that the nation was, as a whole, wicked and idolatrous. It was known as an ungodly nation, even though there were 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (I Kings 19:18). When, at last, the nation was corrupt and beyond repentance, it was taken into captivity—first, the Northern Kingdom, then Judah, the Southern Kingdom.
But Daniel and his three friends went into Babylon, as did other elect as a part of the vine that was cut down. The Scriptures speak of a small plant nearly dead, once again nourished and growing. The captivity was God’s way of cutting away dead branches from the vine, so that the small twig that was left could grow again unimpeded.
We ought to notice that the Northern Kingdom was lost as a nation, forever. Since the time of Jeroboam I, it had served idols and, before its end, God had called the few elect out, through the invitation of Hezekiah to come to the Passover in Jerusalem (II Chron. 30).
If one understands this fundamental truth, he will see that such texts as Ezekiel 33:11 and similar verses cannot be used to prove a well-meant and loving offer to the reprobate, but teach that the gospel is preached to the organism of the nation of Israel with its calling to repent. No one may say that God is pleased that a man perish, as if He were a sadist. He is serious in His demand that men turn from their sins. That also explains why, repeatedly in the prophets, threats of dire punishment and glorious promises are preached to the nation of Israel as a whole.
As I said before, Scripture teaches the organic ways of God’s working; the well-meant offer is individualistic and Arminian. No wonder Arminians are always jumping from text to text without giving any serious thought to the verse itself or attempting to interpret it in its context or in the light of the whole of God’s Word, for Scripture is itself an organic unit, a portrait of God revealed in Christ in all His works.
Hence Scripture interprets Scripture and can never contradict itself. Scripture does not say, on the one hand, that God loves all men (the well-meant offer), and also that God accomplishes His decree of election and reprobation in the way of preaching, on the other. Nor can one fall back on lame excuse of “apparent contradiction.”
One more point must here be emphasized. That God preaches the gospel, through Christ and His servants, to organisms means also that He deals with people in their generations. God visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them” that do not keep the second commandment (Ex. 20:5).
There are two aspects of this truth. The one is positive and the other negative. The positive is that God saves His elect church in the line of generations (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39). The Baptists make the sad mistake of denying Jehovah’s organic work in the two testaments of Scripture, in spite of the fact that Stephen calls Israel in the Old Testament God’s “church” (Acts 7:38) and Scripture teaches that the church is one from the beginning of time to the return of Christ.
Covenant instruction in the home, the Christian school and the church is the means that God uses to continue His covenant in generations. I personally have known families that can trace their ancestors back to the Reformation in Switzerland and the Netherlands. One family, for example, has an ancestor who was married by Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss reformer who lived in the early sixteenth century.
This does not mean that all the individuals in every generation are saved, for some parents are unfaithful in their calling to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). But it does mean that, although God was constantly pruning the vine, the original vine brought forth many generations that were truly His people.
The negative aspect of this is that, because branches in the vine are not individuals but generations, once a branch is cut out of the vine, those who are unfaithful are lost in their generations.
The same is true of nations composed of families. America and Europe once had the gospel and their churches flourished. But recent generations have appeared that are bent on the extermination of Christianity. They look to be nearing success. God is taking the gospel away from these nations, for His command to repent is met with the scorn, opposition and hatred of those who truly teach and preach the gospel of the cross.
This also applies to churches. Once a church forsakes the truth, even in small measure, that congregation or denomination becomes worse as it develops in false doctrine, until reformation becomes the only way of saving the elect and this remnant is saved by way of secession. God calls His faithful out of a church that has become like Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22). The “door” (20) is not the heart of individual Laodiceans but the door of the congregation that no longer is hot or cold but lukewarm and distasteful to God.
Nor does Jehovah return again to such a church or denomination, although sometimes one may be saved from an apostate family or church as “a brand plucked out of the fire” (Zech. 3:2). “Revival” is not the answer. As opposed to solid biblical reformation, revival is merely a shallow, emotional and artificial religion. We need a genuine return to the full scriptural and creedal Reformed faith regarding doctrine and life, preaching and sacraments, church discipline and government (Acts 20:27).
I personally have relatives who have drifted away from the church among whose generations only a few still even belong to any congregation. Most no longer bother about the Lord Jesus Christ or His church at all.
This organic conception of Jehovah’s works has no room for the Arminian notion of the well-meant offer with its impotent and frustrated God, who loves all men and wants everyone in the world to be saved but fails miserably. I ardently wish that this great truth were understood and believed!
Prof. Herman Hanko
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Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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